Urban Meyer signs up for on-air gig with ESPN

Less than a month after he officially ceased being the head coach of the Florida Gators, Urban Meyer has agreed to begin a new form of employment. He will start working as an on-air college football analyst with ESPN beginning Wednesday, the company announced on a conference call Monday.

“Football has played an extremely important role in my life for the past 25 years and ESPN has given me an incredible opportunity to join its world-class team and share my passion, knowledge, and enthusiasm for the game with fans across the country,” said Meyer in a press release.

Meyer, who joined ESPN‘s coverage of the 2010 Las Vegas Bowl and 2011 BCS National Championship and did on-air work for FOX during the 2008 BCS National Championship, has never been a prominently featured television personality before.

“Coach Meyer brings a fresh voice and a contemporary knowledge of the game,” ESPN executive vice president of production Norby Williamson said. “As he showed during BCS coverage, his ability to communicate the strategic aspects of the game and his incredible track record for success will serve college football fans everywhere.”

From ESPN’s press release:

Former University of Florida head football coach Urban Meyer, who won two BCS National Championships in six years, will join ESPN as a college football game and studio analyst. He will make his debut Wednesday, Feb. 2 as a studio analyst during ESPNU’s 10-hour ESPNU National Signing Day Special.

As part of the agreement, Meyer will work a weekly regular-season game (specific assignment to be determined) and select post-season bowl games. He will also provide studio analysis throughout the year on ESPN’s daily College Football Live program; NFL Draft, spring games; and bowl games, including during the network’s on-site BCS coverage.

In addition, Meyer will contribute to ESPN’s popular Saturday morning College GameDay Built by The Home Depot series (from his game site), make weekly appearances on ESPN Radio, and provide analysis on SportsCenter and additional ESPN outlets.

Meyer cited spending time with his family as the main reason he stepped away from his job with Florida. He explained Monday that his duties, though they might sound broad, will only keep him away from home for short periods of time each week.

“In the offseason it’s going to be minimal. During the season it’s going to be the weekend – Friday and Saturday,” he said. “It’s going to be different than what I’m used to the past 25 years.”

Even though he resigned from his job as the Gators head coach, Meyer was given an office inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium by athletic director Jeremy Foley and is expected to continue working with Florida while holding this television job. He shed a bit of light on those responsibilities Monday.

“I’m going to work directly with Jeremy in the foundation and help in that aspect,” he said. “The depth I will assist Florida has not been finalized yet. It will have no impact on what I do with ESPN.”

When it all comes down to it, Meyer will have to analyze the Gators at times on television. However, his new responsibilities will not change his passion for the program.

“I will be very respectful of Florida, very respectful of the game,” he said when asked how it will feel to comment on his old school. “I think we have a great coach. I’m a Florida fan. And I’m not going to be ashamed of that.”

CONFERENCE CALL QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » Urban Meyer signs up for on-air gig with ESPN

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Urban Meyer speaks at Outback Bowl press event

In Tampa, FL, alongside athletic director Jeremy Foley, Penn State Nittany Lions head coach Joe Paterno and ESPN/ABC color commentator Jon Gruden for a 2011 Outback Bowl press event on Thursday was Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer. Though the event was aimed at promotion for the bowl game and its sponsors, Meyer spent a good portion of his time there answering questions about his recent decision to step down from his position at Florida.

“I’M HERE TO HELP IN ANY WAY”

Though Meyer will not be the head coach of the Gators next year, he is hopeful that he will be able to remain with the program – or the athletic department – in come capacity. How he will do that is currently not known and may be up to his eventual replacement.

“I want to be a part of college football. I don’t know [how]. I’m still working on that. I want to help,’’ Meyer said. “I’ve been asked and requested to remain at Florida for as long as they’ll have me. They’ve been very gracious, and I’m here to help in any way. I’ve got an idea, but we’ll have to wait until the new coach gets here. I still want to help the University of Florida. […] It’s all up to [the new coach]. There will be no ego. For people who know me, it’s all about Florida, helping out. If that’s minimal, it’s minimal.”

Foley was sure to make it clear that Meyer would help in any way – if wanted – but would not impede the Gators from hiring someone who does not want his assistance. “It’s all as good as can be and I think that helps us going forward. I’ll bring that up [to coaching candidates]. He will not do anything around the program where he’s not welcome. He’s smarter than that,” Foley said.

Meyer added that he plans to keep his family in Gainesville, FL, and hopes to stay in the area for “a long time” even though he definitively added, “I’m not coaching next year.”

IT WAS A “YEAR-TO-YEAR” DECISION

With Meyer coming back so suddenly after resigning last season, the general understanding by the public was that he would be back at Florida for good as long as his health held up. However it seemed to be a dirty little secret throughout the entire program that Meyer could very well end his career (at least temporarily) after the 2010 season and that an understanding of that arrangement had been reached previously.

“I wanted to stretch as much as I could because I have an obligation to this program and our coaching staff,” Meyer said. “I couldn’t think for a minute about my secretary, about the video people. That’s all I could think about last year at this time. It’s still hard this year, but at least I think there’s some preparation now that went into it.”

Meyer claims to be “at ease” with his decision “because my boss is at ease and he’s got a plan and I’m doing the best I can to assist with the plan.” He said he would be happy and willing to assist Foley in a search for a head coach, but noted that he would provide his help at request of his boss.

DECISION WAS EASIER THIS TIME AROUND

With the full support of his family and a realization that he could now be the father he always wanted to be in the back of his head, Meyer noted that deciding to step down after this season was easier – but still not easy – on this occasion.

“[Shelley] was great. She was not great last year. That was a really tough deal last year,” he said. “That had a lot to do with this year. I just hope you guys never have to go through what I had to. And if you do, it comes out the other end positive. For me, it came out real positive. I’ve never been closer with my family, stronger in my faith. That was an eye-opener. The relationship I’ve got with my wife and my children, if it’s 1-10, it’s 11.”

QUOTES

Meyer on the recruits: “They’ve been good. Everybody’s waiting. I’ll let them know when I know something.”

Foley on hiring a new head coach: “This is the third time I’ve been through this process, and I understand the intense interest it generates. It’s good. It says a lot about Florida. We’ll be getting into developing candidates. We know the expectations here. We have the same expectations. We know the type of job it is, we know the challenge. We look forward to moving ahead very quickly.”

Gruden joking about Meyer’s future: “I’d like to thank Jim McVay and the Outback Bowl for giving me a ticket back to this stadium. Let me be the first to start the rumor of Urban Meyer to the Denver Broncos. I can say that now because I’m a broadcaster.’’

Gruden serious on Meyer’s future: “I think eventually maybe when his kids grow up, maybe he gets the itch again. But right now, I think he needs to catch his breath. The guy might be really tired, you know. He really might be tired. He won two national titles. The SEC is not for everybody now. It’s tough to win.”

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McDaniels’ canning leaves Tebow’s future murky

Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen finally fired head coach Josh McDaniels on Monday, days after his staff was accused of participating in “Spygate II” and approximately 24 hours after his team dropped its ninth game of the 2010 season. Though McDaniels won his first six games as head coach in Denver, he finished his short career an astoundingly awful 5-17 in his last 22 contests.

Depending who you ask, McDaniels either made a gutsy and intelligent call or colossal mistake in trading up for and drafting former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow with the No. 25 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. Tebow, being selected by a coach infatuated with QBs and confident that he could mold him into a NFL-caliber signal caller, was pleased to be playing for the Broncos and was welcomed into the community with open arms even as some fans were skeptical of his ability.

Though Tebow has scored four touchdowns this year (three rushing in goal line packages, one passing), he was not utilized as much as McDaniels had promised and fans had hoped. With Denver inching further and further away from playoff contention in recent weeks, McDaniels was asked over-and-over again if he would play Tebow, a question that consistently elicited a response aimed at propping up starter Kyle Orton, who has thrived under McDaniels’ tutelage.

With McDaniels – one of two coaches in the league who were believed to be enthusiastic developers for Tebow (the other being New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick) – now out of a job, one must wonder what lies ahead in the player’s future.

“Thank you for everything you did for me Coach McDaniels, including drafting me into this great organization,” Tebow said via his Twitter account Monday evening. “I wish you nothing but the best.”

Should someone like Jon Gruden take over in Denver, Tebow would likely not miss a step and perhaps gain another prudent supporter. Then again the Broncos could also sign someone who wants nothing to do with the former Heisman Trophy winner, leaving him as a back-up or perhaps even trading him for pennies on the dollar to another club that believes they can develop him properly.

While Tebow’s long-term success or failure in the NFL is not even close to being determined, his immediate future in Denver is up in the air – a mile high.

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FOUR BITS: Tebow has “it,” Lewis, TPC, lacrosse

1 » Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels continued his praise of former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow to the Denver Post Thursday, citing that his first-round pick has the “it” factor. “There are people with a great deal of God-given ability who are fun to watch, and it’s really interesting to see what kind of seasons they’ll put together,” McDaniels said. “Then there are guys who will say they won’t fail, our team’s not going to fail, and they have a ‘I’m not going to let you down’ attitude. And that’s what you notice with Tim.”

The coach also said Tebow has a good chance to get on the field early – not years down the line like all the NFL Draft experts and other scouts project. “To me, (his football IQ) gives him an advantage, an opportunity to play earlier than other people have played,” he continued. “Everybody keeps talking about it will be two, three years before he can play, and I think they don’t know this guy. His mental capacity, and the way he works, and the fact that he’s on such a fast pace, will give him the chance to compete apples-to-apples. It’s all going to be about his production and performance. There are a lot of rookies who can’t run plays because they can’t figure it out yet. That’s not going to be the case with Tim. He’ll be able to do the things [veterans] do. […] You know what Tim doesn’t know about our playbook? Only what we haven’t told him yet.”

2 » Baltimore Ravens veteran linebacker Ray Lewis spoke out about Tebow’s progression into the NFL to ESPN’s Colin Cowherd on Thursday. Needless to say, the future Hall of Famer champion feels Tebow has received much more help than other players have coming into the league. “The thing I was more shocked by, is you see all the people who were willing to help him,” Lewis said. “I don’t know many people who were willing to help other athletes like that. Jon Gruden loved him to death. You see all these people who took out their personal time to really work with him and make this big issue, big issue, big issue. I don’t know why he was any different than anyone else. Every young child has that dream, that same dream that Tebow had. So I don’t know why he was bigger […] than any of the other guys. He went to a big program, and, yes, he might be a favorable person, but nobody else in the league, definitely not veteran players, see themselves differently than any other player.”

3 » Four former Gators golfers are currently competing in The PLAYERS Championship in Ponta Vedra Beach, FL, each hoping to take home a PGA Tour title. After a full day of action, Camilo Villegas and Brian Gay (-2) were tied for 47th with Mark Calcavecchia (+1) and Chris Couch (+2) bringing up the rear in the 100s. Each player will tee off for their second round from 1-2 p.m. on Friday.

4 » Florida lacrosse (10-7) stunned the crowd watching the quarterfinals of the American Lacrosse Conference Tournament in Columbus, OH, Thursday night by rocking the No. 20 Johns Hopkins Blue Jays (10-7) 14-3. Freshman goalie Cara Canington made a school-record 14 saves on 15 shots as classmates midfielder Kitty Cullen and attacker Ashley Bruns led the way with six and three goals, respectively. The ladies will advance to face No. 11 Vanderbilt at 5:30 p.m. on Friday in the semifinals. The Gators lost to the Commodores 12-7 in Gainesville, FL, earlier in the season.

Photo Credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

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FOUR BITS: Gruden, Tebow, Haden, Jones, ice

1 » Last month, OGGOA reported that NFL analyst Jon Gruden met with former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow as part of a special to be aired on ESPN prior to the 2010 NFL Draft. The duo first went over professional defensive formations in Gruden’s office before heading out to a local high school to throw some passes and work on Tebow’s mechanics. The special – Gruden’s QB Camp – is set to air Thursday at 7 p.m. (EST) on ESPN, but you can view Tebow’s portion now by clicking here. There is also a trailer for the entire special available here.

2 » While we’re on the subject of ESPN, former Gators cornerback Joe Haden spent basically the entire day Monday being interviewed by various talking heads on the network’s various stations. Though most video clips are not yet available online, OGGOA was able to uncover this one of Haden speaking about his career at Florida and the upcoming draft on First Take.

3 » One team that will likely stay away from drafting Tebow is the Dallas Cowboys, especially after owner Jerry Jones went off on a mini-rant while drunk, saying that he would never get on an NFL field. Jones also takes some shots at Miami Dolphins vice president of football operations Bill Parcells, his former head coach. Explicit language.

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4 » Back to Haden. OGGOA reader Dan F. sent us the following picture of potentially the top cornerback selected in the upcoming draft rocking a nice piece of Gators ice over the weekend. If anyone knows where this picture originated, please let us know so we can give credit where credit is due.

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Jon Gruden tutors Tim Tebow, sings his praises

Jon Gruden has been raving about former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow for almost two years. Thursday, the former NFL head coach had a chance to tutor the Heisman Trophy-winning signal caller one-on-one in Tampa, FL.

“I love quarterbacks, and today I had a blast,” Gruden told The Tampa Tribune. “How can you not root for Tim Tebow? He’s a courageous, competitive, play-making, undeniable force. I think he’s going to be a great success.”

The duo first worked on NFL defensive formations in Gruden’s office before heading out to Carrollwood Day School to throw some passes and work on mechanics. Tebow is in the middle of tweaking his throwing motion and delivery before competing his final work out at Florida’s Pro Day on March 17.

“It was wonderful,” Tebow said of the experience. “To be able to spend a day with Coach Gruden was a lot of fun. He’s got a passion and love for the game that’s unrivaled.”

The Tribune also reports that an ESPN camera crew was on-site to film the day’s activities for a one-hour special that will air a week before the 2010 NFL Draft.

Photo Credit: Cliff McBride

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Could Tebow be the steal of the 2010 NFL Draft?

For all of the NFL Draft experts discounting former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow‘s chances of succeeding at his chosen position in the professional ranks, a plethora of former and current players, coaches and talent evaluators are suddenly making their voices heard and saying otherwise.

Early Friday, OGGOA told you what Kurt Hester, director of training for D1 Sports Training, had to say about Tebow’s progression since graduating. He has also been praised recently by former and current head coaches Tony Dungy, Jon Gruden and Bill Belichick and former NFL QBs Jim Kelly and Steve Young, among others.

Now Tebow is receiving rave reviews from NFL talent evaluator Ken Herock, who has prepared more than 40 quarterbacks in his career for the NFL Combine. His company, Pro Prep, simulates the interview process conducted by coaches, general managers and scouts; Tebow, not surprisingly, came away with flying colors.

“He’s by far the best [prospect] with whom I’ve ever worked,” Herock told ESPN’s Len Pasquarelli in an unsolicited phone conversation. “He walks into a room and he just energizes it. Whatever ‘it’ is, he’s definitely got ‘it.’ And even for a guy like me, who’s done this for so long, you almost get goosebumps.”

“His release might be a little low at this point, but a lot of people talked about Philip Rivers’ delivery too before he was drafted, and look at what he’s done. I’ve heard all the supposed [negatives]. But I watched [Tebow] on the field and his velocity is good enough, and so is his accuracy. As far as his learning, you don’t have to tell him anything twice. And he’s a student of the game. I recommended that he watch some tapes of Steve Young, and he said, ‘Oh, I’ve already done that.’ He wants to be good. He wants to succeed. And he will succeed.”

“I’ve seen him on TV and heard all the stuff about him, and you think to yourself, ‘It’s too good to be all be true.’ But there is nothing phony about him at all,” Herock raved. “He’s about as genuine as you can get. If there was one word I would use to describe him, it would be ‘winner.’ People will have to convince me he’s not a quarterback and that he won’t succeed.”

Tebow, who continues to be seemingly underrated by experts like Mel Kiper, Jr. and Todd McShay, could very well end up being the steal of the 2010 NFL Draft – even if he turns out to be a first-round pick. Which scouts, general managers, coaches and owners become enamored with him enough to take the perceived risk of selecting him on the first day still remains to be seen.

OGGOA will be offering live coverage of the 2010 NFL Draft.

Photo Credits: David Bergman/Sports Illustrated, Associated Press

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